East Tennessee State University

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McBee delivered the commencement address to ETSU’s August and December 2002 graduates.

 

Louise McBee attended State Teachers College, Johnson City, from 1942 to 1946, during which time it became East Tennessee State College, now East Tennessee State University. She later worked at the institution, first as an instructor of physical education and later as dean of women. After earning her doctorate from The Ohio State University, she joined the University of Georgia in Athens, where she served in a variety of positions and is now vice president for academic affairs emeritus. A member of the Georgia Legislature since 1991, she now represents the new District 74 in the Georgia House of Representatives. In September 2000, she provided the following information about her days as a student here.

I was a student during World War II. Most of the male students were in the military, except for those who were going into the ministry or had some physical disability that disallowed military service.

 

At that time, an Air Force battalion trained on the campus for a short period of time. All of the coeds were glad to have some males on the campus. It provided someone to date, and it meant dances and other activities could be held. Many marriages resulted.

 

There was a contingent of Navy V-12 cadets at Milligan College who also dated the coeds, but not with the same frequency. In that day, four or five miles seemed quite a distance.

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All of the students, women or men, lived on campus or at home. They were not permitted to live in apartments or houses with other students.

 

The life of students then – including the many restrictions – is unbelievable to today’s students. “In loco parentis” was accepted without question. That is, the institution was responsible for the behavior of the students, acted in place of the parents, and was free to set whatever rules were needed.

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We had a dormitory government. I was the president, and we did make regulations, or suggested what regulations we would live by. We signed out when we went to town or when we went home for the weekend. All women had to be in the hall by a certain hour each evening, shorts could not be worn on campus unless covered by a raincoat, alcohol was not permitted on campus, and there was to be no smoking.

 

Cooking also was not allowed. We did, I know, sneak popcorn poppers and coffee pots into our rooms, but they were against the rules. I think this regulation was created not just to be tough on us, but because the electrical requirements put too much of a load on the system.  Anyway, we would keep our popcorn poppers in the closet during the day and take them out at night to have a snack, not realizing that the housemother could smell it cooking.

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We had other rules that now seem very peculiar, even funny. For instance, we couldn’t iron on Sunday. If you were caught ironing, you had to contribute 25 cents to the YWCA kitty.

 

Of course, we couldn’t smoke or drink. The housemother, Mrs. Imboden, made regular inspections. I can’t remember if it was every day or twice a week, or maybe just whenever she decided to do it.

 

I do remember that one year I had a roommate who smoked. We would always get these signs on our mirror saying, “Someone in this room has been smoking!” Again, this was a terrible violation of restrictions.

 

McBee attended here from 1942-46 and earned the superlative votes
of her peers as seen in these yearbook photos.

 

This continues the "Tales" column that began in the Feb. 10 issue of Accent with remembrances by Dr. Louise McBee, an alumna and former instructor of physical education and dean of women at the university and current District 74 representative in the Georgia House of Representatives.

Coeds did not have their own cars. It was just unheard of.   Someone might have occasionally driven the family car, but that was unusual because most families owned only one car.  After the war, a few of the veterans had cars, but no student had a car during the war.  At that time, gasoline was rationed and in short supply, and tires were difficult, if not impossible, to get.

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It was 100 miles from my home in Strawberry Plains to the campus. I rode the train with all of my belongings in a trunk and got a taxi from the station to the campus.  I went home about once a month, and I would ride the bus on Friday afternoon after class and return on Sunday.

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What we thought of as mischievous would not seem so today. It truly was a time of innocence.  The dean of women lived on the first floor of the dormitory. Our kind of fun would be to stack Coca-Cola bottles in front of her door so that when she opened the door, they would fall over and make a racket.

Most of my group lived on the third floor. We considered it great fun to fill a sack with water and drop it into the stairwell. It would make a lot of noise — almost like a shot going off — and it would wake many students and certainly the dean of women.  She would come to see who was responsible, but by that time we would have our lights off and be under the covers, trying not to laugh and hoping she wouldn’t knock on our door.

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I remember with great affection my history professor, who was a very fine teacher.  She was a strong, Christian woman and had what probably would not be allowed today:  a Bible class every Thursday night with a prayer meeting following it.

The word was put out that it helped your history grade if you attended her Bible class.  Many of us went.

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Classes were small. Teachers called all students by name and knew them personally.  We liked our teachers, and there was very much of a personal relationship in classrooms.  The whole atmosphere gave a meaning to college that students, especially on large campuses, fail to experience today.

 

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"Tales of the University" is a regular column provided by the ETSU Retirees Association about the university and the people associated with it through the decades.  Faculty, staff, students and alumni are encouraged to share their memories of ETSU with the Retirees Association for consideration for future columns.  Stories, comments and suggestions may be sent to Dr. Willene Paxton, chair of the Tales of the University committee, 1203 Lester Harris Road, Johnson City, TN 37601, or willenepj@charter.net.

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Mailing Address:  Office of Human Resources
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Johnson City, TN  37614-1707
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Updated on 09/07/10